WASHINGTON – An effort to reach a deal to provide $350 million for three drinking-water projects on the Hopi and Navajo reservations died in Congress recently.
The Hopi and Navajo tribes voted to oppose the proposed congressional settlement, which would have built the water projects in exchange for the tribes ceding water-rights claims.
Tribal opponents said they felt the proposal was pushed on them with little opportunity to digest the complex plan, but supporters argue that stakeholders had been involved throughout the process.
“As presently configured it’s dead, deader than a doornail,” said former Hopi Chairman Vernon Masayesva. “It’s not going anywhere.”
The main sponsor of the proposal, Sen. Jon Kyl, has said all along that the bill would not move forward without approval from both the Hopi and Navajo tribes.
Kyl, who is retiring at the end of this term, introduced the bill along with Republican Sen. John McCain. It would have quantified how much water the tribes have a right to use and prevented them from making any further claims to the water from the Little Colorado River.
In exchange, the government would have built three projects — water-treatment plants at Ganado and Dilkon and an expansion of the Western Navajo Pipeline — that would have delivered up to 20,000 acre-feet per year to impoverished areas.